Expensive juice

The concession stand / press box is shown at Pleasant Valley's football stadium.

Pleasant Valley High School had a mystery to solve, one that involved electricity and thousands of dollars in power bills.

The bill to power Raider Stadium’s lights, press box and concession stands was three times as high as that of the other schools in the Calhoun County School district, according to Principal Mark Proper. 

Over the past couple years, Proper said, school officials noticed the difference between the bills for Pleasant Valley, which is served by Cherokee Electric, and the other schools, which get their electricity from Alabama Power. They then began trying to pinpoint the cause.  

Two months ago, Proper said, a representative from Cherokee Electric helped solve the mystery when he realized that the school’s press box and concession stand were connected to the same meter as the stadium lights. 

The facilities had been put on the same meter after the school had to put up new lights after the old ones were knocked down in the April 27, 2011, storms. 

“When the lights were put on that, it raises the bill to what's called a high-demand situation,” Proper said.

Proper said the high school’s football program was paying $14,000 to $15,000 dollars a year to pay the electric bill while other schools in the district were paying around $5,000. 

“When the meters were combined nobody from the electric company told us there was a situation where athletic lights are on a different billing rate than regular electricity,” Proper said. “So when it got combined it skyrocketed our bill for our football program.”

Attempts to reach representatives of Cherokee Electric for comment were unsuccessful.

Proper said he expects the issue to be fixed within a month and that Cherokee Electric is working on separating the lights and connecting them to their own meter. 

“I'm not dogging Cherokee Electric or, you know, the engineers that came and put our lights up,” Proper said. “It was just a breakdown in communication is what it was, because we could have had this resolved at the beginning. We just weren't given that information.”

In response to the situation, Calhoun County School Superintendent Donald Turner said that the board is hiring Schneider Electric, a Birmingham-based company that offers consulting services on energy usage and efficiency, to evaluate the utility use of all the schools in the system. 

“They're going to come in and help us be more energy efficient throughout our system,” Turner said. 

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